The Sunday Poem: Merimee Moffitt... Dear Michael, Vallecitos, NM 1971


Nobody is better than Merimee Moffitt at taking the reader inside the heart of counter-culture New Mexico during the Vietnam War era. Immigration issues?  Try hundreds of long-hairs settling in the rural northern part of our state, refugees from a society whose president called them "punks." It wasn't pretty all the time, but there was no going back, wherever that might be. What a backdrop against which to play out your young life!

Merimee Moffitt now lives in Nob Hill. She is a co-editor of The Rag, a monthly poetry broadside. The following poem is from her new chapbook Vallecitos & Taos, Early 70's (available upon request).



Dear Michael, Vallecitos, NM  1971
 

In the cabin that spring soon as I was pregnant
you took up with Light-haired Sandy—
the men started dropping by just to see
hoping, everyone knew
I was a fool not knowing you did
whatever you did with her—she,
strawberry blonde, all about her hair
creamy skinned and flat-bellied—
brain-dead as a milk can but that didn’t stop you
 
When Denny showed up instead of you one night
I still didn’t get it—he asked if I was lonesome
mentioned how with you in town a lot
—he, Light-hair’s step-brother-in-law
he’d been wondering, but
I had no desire for him or
a dose of trouble with his gang-y girlfriend
Light-hair’s step-sister, Dark-haired Sandy
I may as well have fallen on my sword because dark-hair
would’ve cut me up like a carcass
 
Geronimo found reasons to check on his cows all winter
milling around the valley most of which was his
but him and me, no way—his 60-something
wife Amalia would’ve shot me right through the eyes
had him bury me without a single fare thee well
besides, he was old—he parked his truck and
asked me to walk on sheet ice with him one day
though I could see the plan, he grabbing my arm as I inevitably
slipped
 
Fermin, of course, had come calling well before your indiscretion—
telling me at the woodpile how much we’d need, how
winters in Vallecitos were nothing  to make light of
He knew it was a no because I snubbed him every time
I had to pass his house for access to the canyon
the back way to our place in the valley below
One sunny day after walking the high road in, to check the mail
buy tortillas at Willy’s, say hi, maybe, to the Sandys
going home, Fermin jumped out from behind a big boulder
along the deep gorge path.  He held my arms and
shook me a little as if I were a piggy bank.  “Oh for God’s
sake, Fermin,—stop it!” I pretty easily twisted out of his grip. 
He asked me then could he and a few of his cousins
come down to the cabin
and rape me some night.  “No,” I answered carefully
learning a shit load
about his culture in that one question
“No, I wouldn’t like that” I looked right at him, my eyes each an open blade
He looked down in hat-holding posture, “Ok,” he said
 “I thought maybe you’d want us to do that.  Are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” I told him, as if summoning up the teacher voice inside me
I could finally hear her in the quiet of that canyon. 
Perhaps she had said yes lifetimes ago
to the wrong man, and I was getting the second chance
 
What I loved so much about you, anyway, Michael
was your smile lying next to me when you did
Alone, I loved the rose hips, the creek
cascading around sunny boulders into shady Aspen groves
Jesus, even beavers at the meadow where we first camped
I was grateful for the men who took no for an answer—
no one spoiled that place for me, not even you

--Merimee Moffitt


Poetry submissions are welcome. Email theditchrider@gmail.com.

Views: 32

Comment by Margaret Randall on January 2, 2011 at 8:04am
This poem really grabbed me. I don't think I've ever read a poem about the no's rather than the sad yes's. The era certainly produced their quota of no's, especially for women. And all the no's and all the yes's ended up helping us find ourselves. This is one I will go back to, often. Thank you, Merimee.
Comment by Barelas Babe on January 2, 2011 at 8:11am
Your words just pulled me right in, Merimee. I love the sass and fortitude of this poem!
Comment by BARBARA BYERS on January 2, 2011 at 8:14am
Incredible. No, altogether CREDIBLE. Right on, Merimee. What a poem. What a time. Thank you.
Comment by cathyray on January 2, 2011 at 9:47am

when I first realized I could say yes I forgot for awhile that I could also say no. Nowadays I tell the young girls that the freedom to say yes also includes the power of no. Thanks Merimee! I do love tripping back thru time with you.

Comment by Ben Moffett on January 2, 2011 at 10:46am
I don't think I've ever read a poem quite so carefully. It is beautiful and a tribute to you, Vallecitos, and maybe (maybe not) "the day," I still remember your earlier poem in the Ditchrider series with fondness, too. Thank you.
Comment by cc on January 2, 2011 at 4:28pm

So important to chronicle and honor these olden times - so different from now. Your honoring, honesty and people-savvy inspires me, Merimee.

And so appreciate the introduction's parallel -- then's immigrants to New Mexico, Hippy/Back-to-Land/Counter-culture folks from other parts immigrating to the small villas and rural areas.

Comment by Poet Oishi on January 3, 2011 at 8:01am
What a way to start the new year--with a woman's memories, honesty, courage. Thanks, Merimee.
Comment by Dee Cohen on January 3, 2011 at 8:24am

I was lucky enough to hear you read this one Merimee.

It captures a time and place beautifully.

Also grabs the almost accidental empowerment of an amazingly brave girl.

Love the last line - the poem is for someone but also passes him by... Thanks for sharing this, Dee

 

Comment by Georgia Santa-Maria on January 3, 2011 at 11:37am
This is so wonderful--and scarry--it's amazing we survived those times. The thing that grabs me so with this poem is the off-handed funny voice so accurately describing the experience of feeling like prey. Being up for grabs, literally. Seldom is this aspect of the "counter culture" looked at--I always thought it was the origin of the Women's movement. Thank you for the portrait of a time and place I'm glad both of us survived successfully.
Comment by Gina M on January 6, 2011 at 10:25am
mm, wonderful last stanza... i always admire your strength. thanks for sharing such a poignant piece.

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